Population Shifts in Contemporary GreekMacedonia
by Iakovos D. Michailidis
Assistant Professor in Contemporary and Modern History, Department of History and Archaeology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
The liberation of Macedonia in the period of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) constitutedthe culmination and the recompense of Greek irredentist activity in the region. For de-cades both its own Greek-speaking inhabitants and their brothers in the free Kingdom of the Hellenes had increasingly longed for the union of the two territories. Their trium- phal welcoming of the lands acquired under the terms of the Treaty of Bucharest wastherefore perfectly natural. But once the victory celebrations were over, the Greek ad-ministration found itself facing the accumulation of serious problems that had built upin the region as a result of the chronic Ottoman negligence and incompetence in con- junction with the multilevel internal ethnic diversity.According to the available statistics, on the eve of the Liberation Macedonia had a population of approximately 1,205,000, of whom just 370,000 (31%) were Greek-speakers, 260,000 (21.5%) were Slav-speakers (Patriarchists and Exarchists) and475,000 (39.5%) were Muslims, with Jews and other groups making up the remaining98,000 (8%).The ethnic fragmentation of Macedonia and the universally admitted numericalinferiority of its Greek-speaking inhabitants, especially in the continuing climate of un-certainty caused by the war, were indisputably major headaches for the Greek administration.
1. The war decade (1912–1920)
The conversion of Macedonia into a theatre of war for an entire decade (1910-1920)naturally resulted in extensive demographic changes. Alexandros Pallis, who was re-sponsible for refugee relief in Macedonia, counted a total of 12 mass movements of Greek-speaking, Turkish-speaking and Slavic-speaking populations into and out of theMacedonian hinterland during that period.
Those leaving Macedonia were in the main Slavic-speakers or members of theMuslim minority. There was a mass exodus of Slavic-speakers from Macedonia to Bul-garia as the Greek army advanced during the Second Balkan War. This wave of emigration came mainly from Eastern and Central Macedonia, with only a relativelylimited number of Slavic-speakers leaving Western Macedonia. The next few years sawonly sporadic shifts of Slavic-speaking populations. In the summer of 1916, the Bulgar-ian forces that invaded Eastern Macedonia were followed by a significant number of Slavic-speakers.
In the end, however, these latter did not remain long on Greek soil,since in the autumn of 1918, they once again headed into exile in front of the advancingallied forces. According to the statistics, some 40,000 Slavic-speakers left Greece dur-ing the period of the Balkan Wars. It is worth stressing that the bulk of the Slavophoneemigration during this period came from Central and Eastern Macedonia, while after 1914 it came mainly from Western Macedonia.
This is not difficult to explain, given